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The Charioteers

Gospel purists may feel that what was done to the Charioteers is something like trying to turn a chariot into a Corvette. The black gospel group, newly transformed into a vocal pop group by enterprising record company executives, failed to turn the desired commercial quarter with the momentum of the Ink Spots. An early vehicle for lead tenor Billy Williams, who would have an even more successful career on his own, the Charioteers left behind a respectable recorded legacy nonetheless in both the gospel and pop genres. The group was first formed in Ohio in 1930, and by 1937 had settled into a vocal lineup of Williams, second tenor Ed Jackson, baritone Ira Williams, and bass Howard Daniels, with piano accompanist Jimmy Sherman. Opportunities to record began after the group vanquished all contenders in a Ohio quartet contest in 1934, most notably getting a chance to cut a pair of songs for Decca that was part of the contest prize. Vocalion began actually paying the group to record several years later, resulting in a fine collection of black gospel material including jubilees, spirituals, and folk tunes such as "Wade in the Water" and "Ezekiel Saw de Wheel." The Charioteers continued in this direction until signing a contract with Columbia in 1940.

The mega-label that would later tell Bob Dylan to ditch the Christian music or take a hike needed a commercial rival for the Ink Spots, who at that time were under contract to Decca. In terms of this rivalry, Williams and his group wound up like some of the chariots with shattered wheels in the climactic scenes of Ben Hur. Fortunately, however, this was the music business and not a Roman chariot race, with enjoyable victories to be savored by participants throughout the race. For the Charioteers, these began with the group's 1940 recording of Russ Morgan's song "So Long" and continued through six more chart hits. The group was also heard on the radio backing other vocal stars, including Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. In comparison, the Ink Spots had some 36 hits during the same time period and was the first name on the list for studio backup singing.

The Charioteers appeared regularly on network radio, most notably Crosby's show. The group also made appearances in motion pictures and toured in the musical revue Hellzapoppin'. "On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City" was a hit record for the group in 1946. "Open the Door, Richard" was such a smash novelty song the following year that six different artists had versions on the charts, including the Charioteers. Which only makes sense, since if anything could open a door, a chariot could. In the '50s Williams literally left the group behind. He had an opportunity to present a vocal group on the television program Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, but the producers insisted the the Charioteers were too old and demanded Williams hitch up a more modern form of musical transportation. The Billy Williams Quartet was thus launched, and the Charioteers ground on with new lead singer Herbert Dickerson. There were no more hits, and a steadily diminishing presence on-stage until the group called it quits in 1957. Williams, who was the first live guest on the American Bandstand show, died in Chicago in the early '70s. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Comedy Song Collection

Disc 1

1. The Thing

2. Little Blue Riding Hood

3. Civilization

5. Life Get's Tee Jus, Don't It

8. Sound Off

9. Old MacDonald Had A Farm

10. I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat

11. Dry Bones

13. Down By The Station

14. Aba Daba Honeymoon

15. Inka Dinka Doo

16. Blue Tail Fly

17. Cement Mixer

18. Twelfth Street Rag

19. There Is A Tavern In The Town

20. The Prune Song

Disc 2

1. I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones

7. C'est Si Bon

8. Hot Rod Race

10. Minnie The Moocher

11. Eh, Cumpari!

14. The Woody Woodpecker Song

15. Your Feet's Too Big

17. Tell Me A Story

18. Huggin' And Chalkin'

19. Cocktails For Two

20. Open The Door Richard

Disc 3

2. I've Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts

4. The Doughnut Song

5. Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)

7. Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy

9. My Ding-A-Ling

11. Mairzy Doats

12. How Much Is That Doggie In The Window

13. Istanbul

14. The Maharajah Of Magador

15. Hooray For Captain Spalding

17. Daffy Duck's Rhapsody

18. Triplets

19. Try

x

Track List: Flashbacks #5: Halleluja 1926-1946 - Gospel & Prayers

1. The Old Ship Of Zion

2. Golden Gate Gospel Train

4. Strange Things Happen Every Day

5. Shake Mother's Hand For Me

7. Church, I'm Fully Saved Today

8. Ezekiel Saw The Wheel

10. If You See My Savior

11. Do Lord Send Me

12. My Time Done Come

13. The Prodigal Son

14. Book Of The Seven Seals

18. I Want To Rest

20. I Want Two Wings

21. Lift Every Voice And Sing

22. Them Bones

x

Track List: Gospel: Negro Spirituals-Gospel Songs / 1926-1942

Disc 1

1. Let Your Light Shine On Me

2. Mother's Children Have A Hard Time

3. I'll Go Where You Want Me To Do

4. He's Got His Eyes On You

5. The Need Of Prayer

6. True Friendship

7. Goin' On To Heaven In The Sanctified Way

8. Thou Carest Lord For Me

9. Sign Of The Judgement

10. Take Your Burden To The Lord...

12. Memphis Flu

13. He Got Better Things For You

14. No Hiding Place

15. The Black Diamond Express To Hell (I & II)

16. If You See My Savior

17. Precious Lord, Take My Hand

18. The Prodigal Son

Disc 2

1. Oh, My Lord

2. God Shall Wipe All Tears Away

3. I Want Jesus To Walk Around My Bedside

4. When The Saints Go Marching In

5. When I Stand Before The King

6. Tell Me What Kind Of Man Jesus Is

8. Twelve Gates To The City

9. Moan, You Moaners

10. Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen

11. The Valley Of Time

12. The Sun Didn't Shine

13. Do Lord Send Me

14. Shake Mother's Hand For Me

15. This Train

16. Rock Me

17. I'm Free At Last

18. Wade In The Water

x

Track List: Le Gospel (1939-1952)

Disc 1

1. Rock My Soul

2. Downward Road

3. Prodigal Son

5. Give Me That Old Time Religion

8. The Storm Is Passing Over

9. Take Thy Burden To The Lord

10. Down Here, Lord, Waiting On You

11. All God's Chillun Got Shoes

12. Swing Low Sweet Chariot

13. Gospel Train

14. God Moves On The Water

15. Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho

18. I Saw The Light

19. God's Mighty Hand

22. O' Jesus, Let Me Ride

23. The Mighty Number

24. Jesus Is My Only Friend

Disc 2

2. How Far Am I From Canaan

3. Will He Welcome Me Here

4. I Know I've Been Changed

5. Stop Right Now

6. Calvary

7. Well, Well - Don't Worry About Me

8. Jesus Gave Me Water

9. I Love The Lord

10. I Want Jesus On The Road I Travel

11. Step By Step

12. Blood Done Signed My Name

13. Packing Every Burden

14. Get Right With God

15. Before This Time Another Year

18. My Rock

19. Since Jesus Came Into My Heart

20. Something Within Me

21. My Life Is In His Hands

22. Atlanta's Tragic Monday

23. Good Religion

24. Jesus Is Listening

Disc 3

1. Sin Is To Blame

2. Milky White Way

3. The Florida Storm

4. In The Upper Room Part I

5. In The Upper Room Part II

7. Show Me The Way

8. My Soul Is A Witness

10. Stand By Me

11. Don't Want To Go There

12. Building On The Good Shore

13. I'm A Pilgrim Traveler

14. That Great Judgement Day

15. How I Got Over

17. Get Right With God

18. Count Your Blessings

19. Great Day

20. Didn't It Rain

21. Jesus

22. The Tree Of Life

23. I'll Never Turn Back

24. Nobody's Fault But Mine

x

Track List: Vocal Groups: Classic Doo Wop

Disc 1

2. Sweet Georgia Brown

3. Sweet And Slow

4. Swing Is The Thing

5. My Walking Stick

6. I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water

7. If I Didn't Care

9. Whispering Grass

11. That's The Rhythm

12. I Like Pie, I Like Cake

13. Milk Shake Stand

15. The Blues Can Jump

17. Hoe Cake, Hominy And Sassafras Tea

19. Wig Blues

20. Write Me A Letter

21. Around About Midnite

22. Ever Lovin' Slick

23. It's Too Soon To Know

24. Five O'Clock Blues

25. Jumping Jack

26. Rival Blues

Disc 2

1. Too Much Of A Little Bit

2. What's The Matter With You

3. Lemon Squeezing Daddy

4. Please Don't Leave Me

5. My Baby's Gone

6. How Could You

7. One More Time

8. Will You Be Mine

9. Sixty Minute Man

10. Make Me Thrill Again

11. Mary Jo

12. Ting-A-Ling

13. Stormy Weather

14. Eyesight To The Blind

15. The Glory Of Love

17. Good Googa Mooga

18. Just Walking In The Rain

19. I Wasn't Thinkin', I Was Drinkin'

20. Money Honey

21. Gee

22. I Found Out

23. A Sunday Kind Of Love

24. Get With It

Disc 3

1. Be Bop Wino

2. Feel So Good

3. Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite

5. Tell Me

6. Big Leg Mama

8. Is It A Dream

11. Hearts Of Stone

12. Baby Let Me Bang Your Box

13. The Stars Are Out Tonight

15. Gloria

16. Riot In Cell Block No.9

17. Oop Shoop

18. Grief By Day, Grief By Night

19. What Do You Do

20. Mary Lee

23. Buick '59

24. Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)

25. Newly Wed

Disc 4

1. Smokey Joe's Cafe

2. You Didn't Learn It At Home

3. Witchcraft

4. Chop Chop Boom

5. Rollin' Stone

6. No No Cherry

7. My Angel

8. I'm Leavin' (Clickity Clack)

9. The Door Is Still Open

10. That's Your Mistake

11. Baby Let's Play House

12. Be Bop Baby

14. Hug A Little, Kiss A Little

15. I Need You So

16. When You Dance

17. At My Front Door

18. Lonely Nights

19. Red Hots And Chili Mac

20. Bye Bye

21. A Story Untold

22. Don't Play No Mambo

23. Peace And Contentment

24. Nobody Knows

26. The Great Pretender

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